Anthony Ausgang. Photo courtesy Anthony Ausgang

Anthony Ausgang: Los Angeles is Paradise, Right?

Each week, Jeremy Rosenberg (@losjeremy) asks, "How did you - or your family before you - wind up living in Los Angeles?

Today we hear from artist Anthony Ausgang:

"The story is this: I was living in Austin, Texas and had a year of art school at U.T., schooling to become a painter and artist.

"I showed my paintings around but got no feedback or interest from anyone outside of academia so I decided to leave U.T., Austin, and Texas altogether.

"I had witnessed the NYC East Village scene and even showed my sheet of slides to various galleries there so THAT seemed like the logical place. But when I looked at a map I couldn't keep my eyes from California, and since Hollywood was actually closer than NYC by a couple of hundred miles, I decided that I would head west.

"I had plenty of illusions to power my trip: that Hollywood Boulevard was on the beach, that the bars were filled with blonde California Girls in thigh-high boots, that sex was easy and cheap (if not free altogether), and most importantly, that I would become an art star just like all those actors.

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"I was born in Point-A-Pierre, Trinidad and Tobago -- it was part of the British West Indies then. As a child, we'd visit my mother's side of the family in Wassenaar, Holland. (My father's family is from Swansea, Wales.)

"Before WWII, my mother's family had been in Java, Indonesia, where my grandfather was getting friendly with the local rajas in order to get their mineral rights for Shell. The family, including my mother, spent the war years in Switzerland.

"In Holland, I would look through the family photographs and particularly liked the ones my grandfather, Henke Wenckebach, took in the 1930s when he came to Los Angeles for Shell to buy up the mineral rights at the Stocker oil fields.

Anthony Ausgang's grandfather, Henke Wenckebach (right) along with an unidentified man, an oil well and a whiskey bottle. Photo courtesy Anthony Ausgang

"The pictures of the La Brea Tar Pits and the concrete saber tooth tiger sculptures nearby really impressed me and I was looking forward to having my pictures taken in the same spots and sending them back to the clan in Holland. Nothing I had read or seen made Los Angeles look like anything other than paradise.

"But, just like the animals that were trapped in the tar pits, I failed to notice that, although there were many footprints leading in to L.A., there were none leading out...

"I still wasn't 100% sure that leaving everything I knew behind me was the best thing to do. The exodus was clinched when my girlfriend at the time decided to take off for California herself, so I gave her money to get a place and began getting my goods together for the trip.

"I had been collecting beer cans since I was 13-years-old and had quite a collection of rarities, and even had one of the first beer cans ever made, a Krueger Pilsener. The amount of money I got for them combined with the proceeds from selling my vast collection of Led Zeppelin bootleg records was enough that I was able to sit down with my parents and tell them this was it, I was leaving for California.

"I packed everything in my gold 1977 Honda Accord, put the bicycle on a rack and, after running over my brother's foot, waved goodbye. This may sound like bullshit but it's true: The first song that came on the car radio after I crossed the border between Arizona and California was, 'Welcome to the Hotel California' by The Eagles.

Henke Wenckebach, with orange. Photo courtesy Anthony Ausgang

"The trip itself wasn't unusual or spectacular -- what was both of those things was the sight of my girlfriend when I arrived. It had taken about a month for me to leave Texas after she did so I was absolutely unprepared for the sight of her obvious pregnancy when she came running out of the apartment building to meet me.

"I suddenly realized that things would never be the same... which was reinforced that night when I was treated to the sound of someone guy begging for mercy just outside our kitchen window (from which I could actually lean out and pick oranges from a tree) while getting the shit beaten out of him."

--Anthony Ausgang
(as emailed to Jeremy Rosenberg)

Top Image: Anthony Ausgang. Photo courtesy Anthony Ausgang

Do you or someone you know have a great Los Angeles Arrival Story to share? If so, then contact Jeremy Rosenberg via: arrivalstory AT gmail DOT com. Follow Rosenberg on Twitter @losjeremy

Anthony Ausgang's cover art for the MGMT album, Congratulations. Image courtesy Anthony Ausgang

About the Author

Jeremy Rosenberg is a Los Angeles-based writer, editor, and consultant whose work has appeared in various books, magazines, newspapers, and online.
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